Paul Millsap Focused on Leading the Nuggets Despite His Uncertain Future

    Paul Millsap has stuck to the advice legendary NBAer Karl Malone gave him: “Continue to work hard and continue to be myself." Which is fitting considering

    November 1, 2018

    Paul Millsap has stuck to the advice legendary NBAer Karl Malone gave him: “Continue to work hard and continue to be myself.”

    Which is fitting considering that Millsap and Malone have a lot in common.

    Both were three-year starters at Louisiana Tech and both put up similar numbers during their college careers. Millsap described Malone as a “quiet guy,” but he could’ve easily been describing himself. Both players were drafted by the Utah Jazz and spent the majority of their careers in Utah.

    That’s where the similarities end.

    Malone was a first-round pick who appeared destined for stardom while Millsap got taken late in the second round. Despite being a strong scorer and rebounder in college, Millsap was not able to get national exposure because Louisiana Tech failed to make the NCAA Tournament during his time there.

    But he didn’t change his playing style when he entered the NBA and slowly developed into an all-around threat.

    By the time Millsap arrived to Denver in 2017, he was a four-time All-Star that was supposed to elevate the Nuggets to contenders in the Western Conference. That’s because Millsap had dominated during his time with the Atlanta Hawks.

    Millsap, who was the leading scorer and rebounder on a Hawks squad that won 60 games during the 2014-15 season, chose Denver because he saw a young team on the rise and wanted to be a part of it.

    “Everything that’s going on here, the young talent, the ability to help a young team reach their goals,” Millsap responded when asked why he chose the Nuggets. “And the sky’s the limit for this team.”

    One of those young talented players is Nikola Jokic, who has become one of the best centers in the league. After playing with star big men Al Jefferson and Al Horford, Millsap believes Jokic is the best of the bunch.

    “All of them brought something unique, and I learned from all three of them,” Millsap said. “Talent-wise, [Jokic] is definitely number one.”

    Millsap is the ideal frontcourt partner for Jokic due to his defensive skills and ability to space the floor. He has also benefitted from the young star’s presence.

    “He’s a really smart player, and he’s one or two plays ahead and that helps me get on that level,” Millsap remarked.

    The Millsap-Jokic partnership has also benefitted Denver significantly. According to NBA.com, the duo is posting a 93.1 defensive rating and a 19.5 net rating this season. Their two-man lineup is ranked first and second, respectively, among all of Denver’s two-man combos that have played at least 100 minutes together this season. Last year, Millsap and Jokic were Denver’s best two-man lineup in point differential despite the limited time they had together due to Millsap’s injury. If the duo can continue to perform, and the Nuggets’ wing players keep growing, Denver will have a chance to contend in the West.

    The Nuggets will likely have to deal with the Golden State Warriors in order to reach their ultimate goal and that’s no simple task.

    On the bright side, Denver has had recent success against the defending champions. The Nuggets have split their eight matchups with the Warriors since Kevin Durant came to the Bay Area, meaning Denver could possess the formula and lineup to potentially take down Golden State.

    Since getting blown out in their first matchup, the Nuggets have remained fairly competitive in each contest.

    Game Results Against Warriors w/ Kevin Durant

    Warriors Win 125-101

    Warriors Win 127-119

    Nuggets Win 132-110

    Warriors Win 127-108

    Nuggets Win 96-81

    Warriors Win 124-114

    Nuggets Win 115-108

    Nuggets Win 100-98

     

    “The crazy thing [is], we match up pretty well with them,” Millsap said. “We’ve always played them pretty well in the past, so it’s always an interesting game when we match up against them.”

    The Nuggets topped the Warriors 100-98 earlier this year, but Millsap struggled in the contest. He is experiencing a rare shooting slump, but appears to be bouncing back after an 18-point, eight-rebound effort in a win over the Pelicans.

    He missed 44 games last season due to a wrist surgery as the Nuggets barely missed out on the playoffs and with the organization having a team option on him next year, this could be Millsap’s final season in Denver.

    The Nuggets will likely decline the option and re-negotiate to fit Millsap’s salary under the luxury tax line, and Millsap said he “would like to stay” in Denver beyond this season. The looming uncertainty hasn’t changed his approach for the time being, an approach he’s carried with him from his conversations with a certain Hall of Famer.

    “I can only control what I can control right now and that’s helping this team win,” Millsap said. “Just be me. Just go out there and play basketball.”

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